It’s a typical British summer – blue skies and sunshine one minute and then dark clouds and torrential rain the next. Through the haze of the rain pouring down, a boat appears near Liverpool Street Station, with 7 people fighting their way through the weather. No, it’s not an ark, it is Greek artist Kalliopi Lemos’s “Wooden Boat with Seven People” celebrating the history of this area of London as a hot-bed of different cultures and nationalities, providing a safe and cheap haven for a variety of different displaced communities through its history – the Huguenots in the late 17th century, the Irish in the 18th century, East European Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries and, most recently, the area has become home to a thriving Bangladeshi community around Brick Street, possibly the best place in London for curries, where the Truman Brewery remains as a creative hub, this month (September 2017) housing the New Art Fair and London Design Fair, Tent London and Superbrands London. It will be a busy month for the area as it becomes flooded with people from all over the world, exhibiting and visiting.
The market is a centerpiece of the area and, like London and Spitalfields itself, has a varied architectural history with a mixture of old and new, and is still developing.
The market’s roots go back to the 13th century, though the current buildings are from a major rebuilding in 1893, remaining in use as a market, and again in 2005 supporting a much more varied series of activities, new public spaces and a new public art programme.
The artworks purposely link with Spitalfields and its history, whether as a magnet for immigrants, as with Lemos’s boat, or the former commercial activities in the market buildings in Ali Grant’s “A Pear and a Fig”, and Jack West’s “Frame Break” which refers not only to the strong tradition of weaving and textile manufacture, but also the cultural tension between people , machines and new technologies with its reference to of the Frame Breaking Act of 1812 following riots and destruction with the introduction of new mechanized looms in northern England.
Gabriel Birch’s “Hollow Reef” has filled the pool at the Market with discarded rubbish, reminding developers and workers in the tall commercial blocks nearby that it is important to remember nature, the environment and green spaces, providing an improved environment for health and well-being.
Graham Guy-Robinson’s “Intermediate Object” reminds us that, to achieve, permanence, there needs to be constant change – you only have to look at the cranes and building sites in the area as new buildings continue to be developed. Should such change stop, permanence will disappear and decay will set in.
Standing tall, and overseeing all this is Kenny Hunter’s “I Goat”, with the goat standing proud on top of a pile of packing creates, representing the independent spirit of London and its people. Again, if this should ever disappear, the city will go into decline.
And. of course, cities need artists and public art programmes to make people stand, stop and think, From here it is only a short walk to the explore Sculpture in the City and Broadgate, for more art that enriches the public spaces in the area.